NORTHCOTE, JAMES (1746-1831), historical and portrait painter, was born at Plymouth on the 22d October same time he studied from the round and the life in the Academy schools, making, it would seem, rather slow progress in the technical processes of art. In 1775 he left Reynolds, and about two years later, having acquired the requisite funds by portrait-painting in Devonshire, he at Michelangelo for every time he looked at Raphael, and forming the resolution that in the future he would paint portraits for bread and historical subjects for fame. On his return to England he revisited his native county, and then settled in London, where Opie and Fuseli were his now in the Guildhall, was exhibited in 1787 ; and shortly time, but neither in truth of dramatic conception nor in technical qualities does it approach the parallel works of the older master. Among the productions of Northcote's later years are the Entombment and the Agony in the Garden, besides many portraits, and several animal subjects, like the Leopards, the Dog and Heron, and the Lion, which were more successful than the artist's efforts in the higher departments of art, as was indicated by ' Fuseli's caustic remark on examining the Angel opposing Balaam - "Northcote, you are an angel at an ass, but an ass at an angel." The works of the artist number about two thousand. By unwearied diligence, combined with extreme frugality, he was enabled to accumulate, before his death on 13th July 1831, a fortune of £40,000.
His works possess a certain dignity, and they tell their story clearly ; but they are marred by defective drawing and dull colouring, and by the gross anachronisms and inconsistencies in costume common to the historical painters of the period. Northcote was emulous of fame as an author, and his first essays in literature were contributions to The Artist, edited by Mr Prince Hoare. In 1813 he embodied his recollections of his old master in a Life of Reynolds. His Fables - the first series published in 1828, the second posthumously in 1833 - were illustrated with woodcuts by Harvey from Northcote's own designs. In the production of his Life of Titian, his last work, which appeared in 1830, he was assisted by William Hazlitt, who previously, in 1826, had given to the public in the New Monthly Magazine his recollections of Northcote's pungent and cynical " conversations," the bitter personalities of which caused much trouble to the painter and his friends.